The Magic of Verbal Art: Juanita’s Santería Initiation
It was Friday, July 7, 1995, and Juanita Figueroa and I were sitting at the kitchen table in
the back room of her botánica,2 which was where we always met to discuss Santería. It was almost 6 p.m., the time Juanita closed the store. Through the years I had come to
know this table as Juanita’s workbench, for on any given day, at any time, she would be
using it for grating coconuts, chopping fruits, sorting large bags of herbs into smaller
retail bags, threading a variety of colored beads to make necklaces, painting religious
statues, or sewing clothes. Juanita had taught me about the magical significance of these
items, and I was now ready to learn how to conduct divination and exorcism rituals.